June 14, 1997 in Nation/World

Vegas Can Break Your Heart Diet, Stress, Smoking Blamed As Resorts Buy Defibrillators To Keep Visitors Going

Associated Press

Bring on the alcohol, cigarettes and sleepless nights. Treat yourself to a tummy-buster at a cheap buffet, and your trip to Las Vegas will be complete.

Forget entertainment capital of the world, Las Vegas is headed toward a new title - cardiac arrest capital.

“We attract people whose lifestyles are somewhat less healthy than ideal,” said Dr. Thomas Ahern, with Cardiovascular Consultants of Nevada.

So many tourists suffer a cardiac arrest while at a casino that the city and county fire departments, cardiologists and several other groups are encouraging resorts to purchase defibrillators - equipment that can shock a stopped heart into beating again.

John Graff, a paramedic and research officer for Mercy Medical Services and Dr. Steven Karch, medical director for the Las Vegas Department of Fire Services, recently studied 736 people who suffered a cardiac arrest at a Las Vegas resort or at McCarran International Airport between January 1993 and June 1996.

The response time for all patients was about five minutes. But the study found that the 159 survivors received their first shock an average of nine minutes after going into cardiac arrest. Those who died didn’t receive their first shock until 12 minutes later.

Graff believes that if all resorts had automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, the survival rate would double.

Cardiac arrest is not a heart attack; it’s worse. The electrical signals that tell the muscles to pump go haywire and the heart stops. Victims pass out almost immediately and the average survival rate is just 5 percent.

Defibrillators are being pushed at resorts because of the number and type of people who come to gamble here.

According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the average Las Vegas tourist is 49 years old. Many visitors are smokers and may have heart disease and high stress levels. Combine that with little sleep, no exercise and alcohol, and the potential for cardiac arrest is high, Ahern said. “We as Nevadans, as the host of these tourists, have to recognize what their needs are. These people have a need to live,” he said.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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